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Ham and Passion review at London’s Blue Elephant Theatre – ‘extreme passion and florid sexuality’

Azzurra Ardovini in Ham and Passion. Photo: Maria Falconer Azzurra Ardovini in Ham and Passion. Photo: Maria Falconer
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It is not often that you see a drag queen Virgin Mary in an intimate duet with a girl posing as a man. Or a leg of iberico ham employed as a phallic symbol with the potency of a howitzer. Clearly UK-based Spanish choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra shares a similar sense of mischief to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, particularly in the fluid nature of male and female sexuality.

If Phil Sanger’s murderous drag queen in his opening solo is the most clearly defined character, wielding a knife and breaking down in a welter of self-immolating passion and grief, then the shenanigans that follow are no less entertaining for their enigmatic nature.

A variation on the Cocteau/Petit ballet Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, Young Man! plays transgender tricks in a series of eruptive and violent sub/dom altercations between a bohemian girl and her androgynous nemesis. Phallic symbols litter the stage, from half-chewed chorizos to bananas, heroin-loaded syringes and the ever-present iberico ham that is itself a character throughout the evening.

If the final work tilts into Ken Russell comic blasphemy, it is marked by the seemingly irreconcilable differences between Catholic dogma and reckless, writhing passion which concludes in an orgiastic menage a trois with Our Lady. Simply but effectively dressed and costumed – the skull motorcycle helmet is exemplary – and smartly lit throughout, it oozes a dark and twisted eroticism heavily laced with machismo-skewering humour.

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Extreme passion and florid sexuality run amok in a triple bill of transgressive Spanish dance